Sunday, June 28, 2015


There was an episode of Xena called “Succession.” In it a warrioress named Mavican challenges Xena in a fight to the death. Mavican wants to prove that she is more powerful than Xena. Moreover, Ares is in love with Xena, and Mavican wants Ares for herself.

Xena defeats Mavican, naturally. As Mavican is about to die she calls on Ares for help. He appears and sends Mavican to her death instead. Afterwards, Xena and her companion Gabrielle are talking about it. Ares is present, or appears at some point. Gabrielle is confused as to why Xena never asked for help, even though both she and Mavican would have died without Ares intervention. And why Ares killed Mavican even though Ares had told Mavican she could ask for his help.  (He had said, "you can ask for my help" but had not promised to give it, another aspect to the storyline.)

“Ares once said that anyone who asked for his help didn't deserve it,” Xena answers Gabrielle.

“So when Mavican asked for his help, she lost," Gabrielle interjects, understanding.

Ares protests at that point that he had not meant that, that he would have helped Xena had she asked. He also notes that he needs to be more clear in his riddles and musings to mortals.

Xena tells Gabrielle that regardless she would not have asked Ares for his help, even knowing that he would have agreed. “There's more to it than that,” she explains to Gabrielle. “Maybe someday you will understand me.”

Our lives do have more meaning, the more we offer our help to other people. It may be that is the primary reason most of us our here in this mortal life. And accepting help when we need it is the other side of that, the receiving side.

But what I loved about the character Xena (and Buffy, and the main character of the Jane Campion film “The Piano”) was her fierce independence. Even the God of War could not influence her or dominate her. And Ares would not have loved or admired her if he had been able to force her into submission, or if she had ever come to him except willingly.

He would have helped her in battle, if she'd asked. And it would not have diminished his desire for her. But for Xena, to ask for his help would have diminished her own sense of herself. Xena had lived without fear of death and her life had been threatened many times. She had long since made peace with her mortality.

Xena was able to battle with the Gods, including Ares, and often defeat them, because she kept her own power. There were times when she asked for Ares for help, but only when the circumstances were right, and she would not be compromised. She did not count on his help, even then, only extended the offer and accepted the answer, yeay or naye.

Xena never depended on any other human or any God. She took risks knowing fully the consequences. She was so strong because she was always completely and fully herself. Authenticity cannot be compromised or conquered. Ares and the other gods were powerful than humans, but none of them (at least on the show) were as strong willed as Xena. For all their power over humans, none could defeat Xena's will.

There are some situations- and people- that if you have to ask for help, or whatever, you don't deserve it. And sometimes having to ask means the situation is not deserving of you. Xena had fallen into bottomless pits and other dimensions. No matter what happened in the battle with Mavican, she knew that she would continue to fight another day. She knew that nothing could destroy her will. Not even death.

It's too bad that Xena never had a bigger budget or better writers. There are plenty of male characters like Xena. They are all Heroes. Mad Max, Billy Jack, Shane. But there are very few such female characters.

The Holly Hunter character in The Piano drowns in the original. The studio had Campion change the ending, and add the coda at the end, of the two lovers and the happy family. But the last image, of Hunter's character floating above her piano, tethered by rope, was Campion's true ending. The world without her piano, a world that could not promise to always keep the instrument of her will, was not a place she wished to remain.

In the new ending she says something like “What a surprise, my will chose life.” Campion was able to keep the character intact. Her own will chose that she should continue living, and thus she retained her own power.

Had Xena asked Ares for help, it would not have been she who defeated Mavican. It would have been Ares. It would not have been her will, it would have been his. ***It would have proven to Xena that Mavican was indeed stronger. To be defeated by someone like Mavican would have meant that Xena was already broken -even if just temporarily- in this world. Best to risk another trip to another hellish dimension. Or even death.

Asking would have meant Xena had given away the strength of her will, given away her power to Ares. When a person has real power, they must never give it away. Even dangling over a bottomless pit, trapped in battle with a wanna-be Ares groupie-one of many tedious, absurd duels Xena had to endure- asking for help was not an option. Especially then, in fact.

*** EDIT: Yes, it was Ares that destroyed Mavican, technically, but Xena played no part in it.  Mavican should have extracted the promise of help, and not to simply ask for it.  Mavican should have known the trickery and complications that come with summoning Gods at all.  And if she truly wanted to prove herself worthy of Xena she would have known that Xena never asked anyone to bail her out... although she had no problems accepting opportunities that presented themselves.  Xena let Mavican destroy herself, via Ares.